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Living the sweet life: Jeremiah Earby’s journey to becoming Cal’s rising defensive star

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CLARISSA ARCEO | SENIOR STAFF

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SEPTEMBER 18, 2023

Long before he donned blue and gold, the city of Berkeley meant something completely different to cornerback Jeremiah Earby.

“Usually the only time I would come out here was for Endless Summer Sweets,” Earby said. “I would go down (to the sweets shop) and just get like some fruity pebble apples and some funnel cakes, and that was really the only time I would come to Berkeley — other than recruitment and everything.”

Despite the fact his hometown, East Palo Alto, is only 50 minutes away from Berkeley, Earby revealed that he never visited the city during his childhood except to go to his favorite “sweets spot.”

However, even as a little boy, Earby showed signs of the promising cornerback he is today. Growing up the youngest among his siblings and friends, Earby was always hungry to play sports — even when he was the smallest on the field.

“I’ve seen all my older friends and like siblings and family members all playing sports and everything, so it just motivated me to play sports as well,” Earby said. “(I wanted to) be the best that I could be, try to be better than them because I was always the youngest playing with everybody.”

Earby’s mother Yolanda Mosley reiterated this idea, reminiscing on her youngest son’s childhood determination to keep up with the big kids.

“Jeremiah was only three, (but) he would still try to get in there and he would just stand on the little sideline and practice whatever they were doing — whether it be basketball or track or football, he would just try to emulate what they’re doing,” Mosley said.

Earby excelled in all three sports he played growing up; in fact, he was the CIF Central Coast Section 400m track champion, clinching a gold medal after recording a time of 49.35 seconds.

However, it was always clear where his priorities lay: Football was his “first love,” and his passion shined brightly through his determination to play on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. A star-studded wide receiver as well, Earby modeled his play after NFL stars like Antonio Brown and Stefon Diggs.

During his senior season in 2021 at Menlo-Atherton High School, Earby showed his impressive prowess as a two-way athlete, managing to total 963 yards and 11 touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball, as well as five interceptions and 40 tackles on the defensive side.

His performance was also significant for another reason: It was his first full season starting on varsity as his junior season was shortened due to COVID-19.

In 2020, Menlo-Atherton did end up having a season; however, it was only five games long. Although he made the most of these few games, most notably scoring three touchdowns and notching 221 receiving yards in a single game, Earby really depended on his senior year season to showcase that he had next-level talent.

He eventually finished his high school career having only played 25 games over three seasons from 2019-21. Despite this, he proved himself enough to achieve All-PAL honors as a senior and earned scholarship offers from many top programs.

These included Oregon State, Colorado State, Fresno State, San Diego State, San Jose State and, of course, Cal. Earby ultimately decided on the city he knew and loved as his “sweet spot” — a decision that came down to two key factors.

“One was the relationship with the DB coach, Coach Tre (Watson). Me and him kind of just clicked from the beginning. We had a great first meeting … me and him just had a great connection off the get-go,” Earby shared. “And then, kind of just like the 40-year decision: Even if football doesn’t work out, I still have a Cal degree and everything behind me. So I’m still successful even without playing football in life.”

Beyond the two key factors, however, Earby admits that there is a third reason that influenced him to join the Bears over other programs.

“(Back home), I live with my two nephews and one of my nieces. (I know) they want to see me play — they’re always asking about me and when I go back home, they always want to play and throw the ball around and everything,” Earby said.

“Being a role model for them and have them be able to come and see and watch me play — it was like a big factor because I know they would love to see me play every week,” Earby said. “My family, they try to make it to every game, whether it’s in Texas or all the way in Notre Dame.”

Mosley reiterated how important it is to her to attend as many games as she can, even away games, explaining that it means a lot for Earby to be able to “look up at the stands and see (the family) all there.”

Earby also noted how important his parents were in developing his love for football, particularly his mom, who “kept (him) on top of (his) game.”

“I had both my parents coach me as well. My mom and my dad. I would probably say, still to this day, my mom was my toughest coach,” Earby laughed.

Mosley elaborated on her role as his coach, both officially in Pop Warner, as well as unofficially today.

“I would always push him. I was like, ‘Well, you can do it! Come on, you can do it!,’” Mosley said. “Still to this day, I don’t allow him to really give up. We sit down, we talk about it and I try to encourage him to continue to give effort whether it’s on the field, off the field, in life.”

At age 18, Earby hit the gridiron at the collegiate level — something that brought great joy to him and his family. However, before his dream could become reality, Earby needed to make one major decision: What position was he going to play for the Bears?

“I like scoring touchdowns … the game was just a lot easier playing wide receiver,” Earby said, admitting that originally his favorite position was actually on the offensive side of the ball. “That was a tough decision that like me, my parents and like a lot of my coaches had to sit down and talk about. I chose defensive back and it was, I would say, it was probably like the best decision that I’ve made in my life.”

Earby explains that the root of his decision came down to one major factor: Standing at 6’2”, he realized that his height and size would make him a stand out at defensive back, considering that the average height for college recruits at DB is 5′ 9”.

“Being a tall corner is already like a rarity in the game and knowing that the NFL is starting to transition into (having) taller corners that can move and be more fluid — that was kind of like one of the biggest reasons,” Earby said.

As a true freshman, Earby took his newfound commitment to playing only one position seriously. He excelled in 2022, earning second-team All-American honors from College Football News and was an honorable mention for All-Pac-12 selection of the league’s coaches. He also ranked second in the Pac-12 with an astonishing 11 pass breakups and 36 tackles — the most among the team’s cornerbacks.

Even after such an amazing first-year performance, Earby is still pushing forward to become a better player. Although it is still early in the season, Earby is already showing palpable impact for Cal on defense. In the season’s opener against North Texas, he recorded his second career interception.

Earby also acknowledges that his most refined skills as a defensive back directly draw upon his experience playing the position he now guards face-to-face.

“Being a former wide receiver helps you play the ball better,” Earby said, reflecting on his strengths as an athlete. “It kind of helps you with that recognition of playing ahead of the snap … (you) know certain route concepts and everything. So I would probably say just like being able to attack the ball and have great hands and catch in weird positions or stuff like that.”

Earby also cites his great relationship with Cal’s defensive back coaches, Watson and Coach Terrence Brown, as a helpful tool to keep him focused on and off the field.

“They kind of don’t let us lay off … and when we’re having a bad day, they try and get us together and flip that switch (so we can) still be able to perform at a high level,” Earby said.

He also emphasizes his coaches’ abilities to speak openly with players about issues beyond football, asking the team “what’s been hard in life” and giving the team a safe space to “joke around.”

For the remainder of the 2023 season, Earby is working on his abilities on the field, as well as setting goals for where he wants to be by the end of this fall.

“The overall goal for me is just like being able to make it and stay in the league more than just like the average three-year span,” Earby said. “But like for this season, (I want) to become all-Pac 12 … and just try to keep building to becoming All-American.”

Although Earby is both tough and resilient on the field, he maintains that off the field, he would describe himself as “totally the opposite” — a “very laid-back, chill guy.”

“I like going to viewpoints,” Earby said, regarding his favorite thing to do in his free time at Berkeley. “I like just looking (at) the scenery, like hills and everything.”

This interest in nature and the world around him is nothing new to Earby, according to his mother.

“Jeremiah has always been a kid with a big heart. Oh my god, we’ve had so many animals. He loves to save the world,” Mosely laughed. “I did not know that he would be a star athlete, but we always knew that he would be some type of smart kid, whether it be a scientist or an engineer.”

Earby has had quite the journey — from only visiting Berkeley for Endless Summer Sweets to deliberating on the position he would specialize in at Cal — his relationship with the city never fails to surprise.

However, even though Earby is still relatively new to campus, he is already making an impressive impact — whether it be on the field, in the classroom or enjoying the scenery.

Contact Leila Rosenberg at 

LAST UPDATED

SEPTEMBER 18, 2023